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3/9/15 Now Playing: MonHun 4G, Diving to Hell, and the Huns

Welcome to the first entry in a weekly (Or close to it) series where I blog about games I’ve been playing. A “Now Playing” game blog, basically. (glog?) Some of the games I mention may get a more detailed post at some point if I have more to say about them, but the idea is a fairly short blurb about a couple games in order to keep this page active and get my opinion on them out on the internet. Enough intro, onto the content!

 

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)

This has definitely been the monster taking up all my time (that I’m hunting).  I love that it’s portable so I can play pretty much anytime I have a chance. Waiting for food to cook? Combine some bowgun ammo. Slow moment in a Youtube video or TV show? Go an an expedition. Have to poop? Hunt a pair of monsters and spend at least double the time I really needed to in the bathroom. I know plenty of people complain that it’s not on Wii U or another home console, but I know my time spent on the game would be far, far less if that was the only way to play it.

I was way into Tri, and always played a few of the earlier games, but 4G is by far the best MonHun I’ve played yet. Traveling to new cities keeps returning back to base fresh, the cutscenes are very personal now that they include your hunter, and the online on (New) 3DS works flawlessly for me. I think I put in around 80-100 hours on Tri on 3DS and I’m already almost there on 4G and I can’t see myself stopping any time soon.

I’m currently in High Rank, HR4 online and the first few High offline quests. I just got my first suit of High Rank/S armor: Tetsucabra. I missed this badass looking set the first time around and I’m glad to get another chance to make this relevant. I’ve been using Heavy Bowgun pretty faithfully since I started, and the cool gunner armor is a huge reason for that. While I love gunning with some melee hunters in Multiplayer, it’s pretty painful in single player. I’ve always wanted to main a gunner weapon ever since I first saw the armor for them in MHFU on PSP and I’m glad I finally have done so… I am definitely NOT going to do it again next time though.

Current thoughts on MH4U: The wait, though painful, was worth it!

(And I still haven’t gotten a  Gore Magala plate even after about 15 hunts…)

 

Helldivers (PS4)

5/5, 100%, A++. I love this game. I figured I’d like it, sure, but holy crap am I deep into Helldivers. Last time I played my PS4 this much was with Wolfenstein, and it has been redeeming the console since the disappointment that was Dragon Age: Inquisition. It takes a generally boring genre and does every single thing it needed to do right to make it awesome. The guns feel distinct, you have to move and aim tactically, there is perfect pacing between fights, and it has drop-in/out multiplayer. So many twinstick shooters just got the arcade rout of making you overpowered and throwing hundreds of enemies at you as soon as you press Start… Helldivers masterfully puts you through an ebb and flow of stress as you go through it’s randomly generated maps.

If an enemy patrol spots you, you have about 1 second to wipe them all out before they call in their usually heavier armed and armored buddies. Generally you only succeed at this about half the time, which is actually involves of my few complaints with the game: Enemies can see you while they’re offscreen and you can’t see them. Occasionally you do get signs of their prescense like shadows or audio cues though, and your handy dandy scanner (That you have to stop to pull up, another pacing tool executed well) will let you know around where the enemy patrols are.

Anyway, I could probably gush for a whole post about why Helldivers is a great game, and probably will later,  but I’ll end it here for now.

Current Thoughts on Helldivers: Very fun solo or with pick-up grounds, but AMAZING with buddies. Don’t write this off as just another twin stick shooter.

 

 Total War: Attila (Steam)

I’m already running this post longer than I anticipated (There’s a reason Verbosity is at the top of the site), but I had to mention Attila. I’m a huge Total War fan, but Creative Assembly’s games are generally crappy at launch. Attila was a delightful surprise in this regard. I went in wary, and did my research by watching pre-release videos on YouTube and just about all of them echoed the same thing: Attila is good.

It seems to take all the improvements that Rome 2 needed (And mostly got) and ran with them. The campaign is varied per faction with new hordes, factions that have no standing cities but instead move all their buildings with an army, and the ability to fully abandon or raze cities, leaving the land barren for anyone wishing to move in. The battle AI is quite improved from Rome’s launch. It even successfully pulled off an ambush on me while I was defending a siege that turned the tide of the fight and made me lose! No Total War AI has managed to do that without heavy mods before… much less a launch game!

Current Thoughts on TW Attila: Surprisingly low on bugs, and high on fun! Attila sets a new standard for TW launch games even if it is largely based on Rome 2’s patches. A good stand in for Medieval 3, which is what I really want.

 

 

Check here next week for another entry, although it will probably be much more light… I’m getting married this weekend!

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2012: The Games

So I was watching the recent TGS podcast, and they did an impromptu awards show between TotalBiscuit, Dodger, and Jessie Cox. I decided I’d throw my relatively insignificant 2 cents in using their categories as well. Enjoy!

The categories will be as follows:

  • Game of the Year, defined as “Given the most personal enjoyment
  • Surprise of the year
  • Biggest Disappointment
  • Worst Game Played

Game of the Year

I am vehemently declairing my game of the year as Crusader Kings II, by Paradox Interactive. I really have to hand it to those guys, they know how to make a strategy game. In fact, they seem to be one of the only companies left even attempting to do so! I only recently got into their ultra-complicated brand of Real-time Historical Simulation games with Sengoku late last year, which is a great intro to Paradox games by the way. I loved the extra complication over the flashy combat of Shogun 2 (Also a great game!) and it laid the basis for my eventual love of CKII. My room-mate of the time had been playing Crusader Kings 1 and the stories he would tell blew my mind. Murder, court intrigue, ravenous expansion, brother VS brother wars… it seemed way too cool to be in a video game, and especially procedurally generated. The only problem was… it looked like total crap, being as old as it was… not to mention it didn’t even run on my huge, modern monitor even after mucking about with the resolution.

So I waited a couple months and ate up the Dev blogs of Crusader Kings II like crazy. When the game finally came out… I didn’t launch it for about 3 months due to the intimidation. When I finally did…  I lost about 2 straight weeks to what I call “Maps: The game”.

Sultan.

No matter how many games I play (Or ragequit 200 years in), there’s always more to do. New nations to control. New families to lead to prosperity or ruin. And Paradox is consistently delivering appropriately priced and extremely full featured DLC/Expansions for the game in a timely manner. The game that came out in February of this year has at least doubled it’s feature set through expansions, with many of the features even added to the vanilla game in the DLC-day patch if you’re too tight walleted to drop money… and of course deep Steam sale discounts don’t hurt the wallet if you decide to wait a bit.

**Protip: Only ever buy the fluff DLC (Visual unit packs, Music additions) on Steam sale! They end up only costing you cents instead of dollars.**

Surprise of the Year

This one is easy for me: Faster Than Light. This strategy/space sim came out of absolutely nowhere for me. I never saw their kickstarter, or heard any word of mouth about it. My introduction was a “WTF is…” TotalBiscuit made a few days before launch which made me interested, but I had no idea how completely addicted I’d become to this indie, $10 game. It has random generation, a multitude of ships to unlock (Not DLC, mind you! Good ol’ unlocking! With specific requirements to get you to play the game and everything), and very pleasing art and music. Whether you’re panicking over your suffocating man-sized Preying Mantis named Matt, or monitoring 4 different weapon systems as well as timing your cloak to avoid a hailstorm of missles, Faster Than Light rarely makes any missteps. Much like Braid or Limbo of years past, FTL has become THE sleeper indie hit of 2012, and I’m so glad I’ve been involved.

Who is GM Faux?!

And I still haven’t unlocked the damned crystal cruiser… or even beaten the end boss on Normal difficulty.

Tune your intertubes here soon for the thrilling conclusion, including the worst of the worst (IMO, of course) of 2012.

– Vazzaroth

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Day Z is as intense as advertised

Turns out Rock, Paper, Shotgun and PC Gamer (And Gamebreaker.tv and TotalBiscuit and every other internet denizen it seems) were right. The ARMA II mod Day Z is crazy intense.  Definitely the closest we’ve gotten to a realistic zombie game so far. After hours of mod set up,  ARMA downloading from my recent Amazon purchase, failure to get the mod to load, tutorial reading, and 60 kb/s manual patch downloading from the dev’s site, I was in. So far I’ve lived 3 short, miserable lives. Here’s the recount:

Life 1:

My first thought: Great. My Textures are bugged. Everything was black. I looked around, and more black. I must have forgotten to install something somewhere, dammit. Then I see the chat (Immersion breaking, but useful!) mention night time. I have a hunch, and I left click. BANG! My Russian Makarov pistol fires, and I get a muzzleflash. In that quarter-second, I see the outline of my gun, arms, and a blade or 8 of grass in front of me. My textures are fine, my expectations are what were broken. So, it’s dark. Impossibly dark. Unrealistically dark, but whatever, it’s a horror game. To be fair, I check the night sky and find no Moon. At least there’s no blaring full moon yet I can’t see my own hand in front of my face, makes sense.  Walking around in the almost complete darkness I notice my footsteps are changing distinctly from gravel… to rock… to dirt. I’m going somewhere. I fiddle with the controls in the menu a bit, ARMA is NOT an intuitive game, and notice swap weapons isn’t scroll wheel but is the F key. I hit it, and see that I have 10 flares. Perfect. I left click and toss a bright red flare… right at my feet, with the wimpiest throw in history. At least I can see, although the creepy red glow on the foliage around me is a bit disconcerting. Determined to make my Dad proud I wind up another flare and pitch! It goes quite a bit farther this time. I run over to where it lands and see… more grass and trees. Alrigh-WAIT! Is that… Railroad Tracks?! If there’s one thing I learned from Bear Grills it’s that peeing on your shirt and wearing it as a turban is only a good idea in the desert. If there’s another thing I learned, it’s that roads, even the rail variety, lead to… stuff. Human stuff. So I take a quick look to my left and right and see no discernible difference; I head left, following the tracks. I throw a flare as hard as I can every couple yards when the last one’s light no longs helps guide me. I try traveling in the dark too, but I cannot see the rails for shit, as they say. I throw my 4th or so flare and it lights up… a house.

Or maybe a homestead. I see the house obscuring the skyline and forest silhouettes, some kind of shed across the yard, and maybe even a wrecked something or other… maybe a train or car. I check it out for a moment, but all at once I realize something and shit gets real. I see movement. Then I notice LOTS of movement. Shambling gait, cocked head, crouch-y bend… Yep. I found Zombies. I count at least 4, all around the house. Undoubtedly there’s more in the shadows of night as well. I assess the situation, only turning around and jumping at groan noises 2 or 3 times, and come up with a plan. I throw a flair with my patent-pending Wimpy Throw technique about 3 feet in front of me. I check my pistol ammo (I have about 4 reloads, 8 bullets per clip) and I line up my sights. Pop… Pop… Pop… Dropped one. Not bad. Pop. Got another with a headshot, they aren’t that tough. Pop. HOLY JESUS IS HE SPRINTING AT ME?! The answer was yes. A few more bullets and he dropped too, although I may have been a little psychologically scarred. That runner only fell a few feet from my flare. I better watch out. I take the clip out of my gun and put another one in. I look up and see about 20 zombies all sprinting my way. Oh Joy. My first life in Day Z is punctuated by a period of hasty bullet spam then my innards being passed around like a peacepipe between a horde of zombies. The game informs me “YOU ARE DEAD”.

Life 2:

I’m a little inland of a beach, in some shrubs. Still dark. (The game has a 24 hour timecycle based on the timezone the server selects.) I have a Makarov, and 10 flares. Right. I look around… and hey, a flare! And I see a house, this must be where I died! I crept up on it wary of the horde but I crossed a road and slipped through a fence. This wasn’t the homestead at all, but a lonely house at a crossroads. I walk up to the flare and discover I can pick them up. With my new buddy Torchy I walk slowly around the house, trying to figure out if it’s occupied, or even penetrable. The fence has a few gaps, this thing is no bastion. I make it 340 or so degrees around when I find the door, which is closed and I can find no way to open it. Clambering onto the wooden log outside I try to peek in the window. Nothing. Lame. This house is just a big useless block, as far as the game is concerned. I decide to drop the torch (It was fading) and see if I can find another destination to travel to. Right as I get to a gap in the fence, something comes sprinting around the corner of the house I just walked around… then it stops. “Oh hello buddy” I think, as I see his human stance and face. But wait… I heard of the bandits (Playerkillers) in this game. They get a special skin, and, uhh, crap. What did it look like? Was it this facial wrap, pee content undetermined, that this guy was wearing? I now know the answer to be yes, as he shot me 4 times in my gut, and maybe once in the face. I think I hit him once with my panicked trigger pulls, I like to think it hit his bowels. YOU ARE DEAD. Yes, game, I know.

Life 3, this one’s a doozy!

Spawned. I know what’s up this time. I quickly find some tracks and follow them. I come across what appears to be a refinery, perhaps? Either way it looks like something out of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. And rightfully so since both games are set in Russia: land of the apocalypse, apparently. I find out how to open doors (Scroll wheel -__-) and check out a small shed. Inside are boxes… and not much else. I also notice the lighting engine isn’t the greatest and my flare outside in the courtyard is illuminating this shed even with all doors closed. Hrrm. I sit in there thinking “I’ll wait the night out here” until I remember it’s a 24 hours cycle. I adjust my plan to “I’ll go outside and leave one door open so I can retreat if I need to”. I check out the large factory, and discover the huge warehouse doors can be opened. Cool, they even have 2 sections. Inside I see some rubbish piles. I loot them and am now the proud owner of 3 empty whisky bottles and 4 empty tin cans. I also find a “Wire Fence Kit”, aka barbed wire, but am told in chat I need an engineering backpack. I keep it in my inventory for good luck. There’s also a car tire but it’s too big for me to carry. Vehicles maybe? Sounds promising. As I’m going about my plundering I realize there is definitely moans and groans right outside. And quite a few. I plan to wait it out then remember the timeframe again.  I toss a few empty bottles to pass the time, and I guess zombies love glass. Outraged at my glass assault, they come into the factory. Quite rudely, they are ignoring the concept of doors. They just walk, err, shamble right in. Luckily, they seem stemmed and I get 4 of them down with a bullet or 2 each. I loot them and find almost nothing, but I did find some morphine! Sweet, sweet drugs. Another zombie wanders in and I take aim… and get hit. What?! I spin around and there’s no closer zombie and no bandits sharing my 1 room abode. Hit again, then I realize they are getting me through the wall. No one told me they were trans-dimensional zombies. First ignoring door physics and now reaching through walls. I cap the bugger that wandered in and move away from the wall. My character seems to be having an asthma attack and I realize it’s because he’s now bleeding. I figure out how to wrap up my wound just in time to kill the last 3 zombies who wander in, one of which seemed to only want to crawl along the ground on all fours.

Hmm, what now? I leave the warehouse and look around. Yep, blackness. I decide to doublecheck that shed for stuff since there were alot of boxes and I only recently worked out how to loot and the inventory system. (Again, ARMA is not user friendly) A quick bypass was wise, as I find a few unspent shotgun rounds laying around. Now I just need the shotgun… I have a goal. My focus is cut short when I again find myself surrounded by groans outside. I open the door and welcome the guy that was hanging out right on the other side with a few rounds, and his 2 buddies with some too. Click Hmm, gotta reload. Hope this last guy doesn’t rush me… I get the mag in, but it’s my last. I finish the remaining zed with a headshot. This isn’t looking good, I need to find supplies. I spy one unlooted building in this industrial park and get over there and open the door. A trend is developing, as I hear more zombies. I’m low on gun food and would rather avoid them. I see a cool catwalk lining this room and jaunt up the iron stairs right as more door-ignoring zombies wander in. I get a few good headshots off but it’s increasingly apparent there are more of them than rounds in my gun. I enter emergency loot mode and sprint down the catwalk away from them. I find a small management office, but it’s worthless. I go around to the very end of the catwalk as zombies are rounding the last corner as well. I’m screwed.

I never worked out the jump button, so I ask in chat how to mantle really quickly. No response, doomed! Then a guardian angel ays “V”. I press it and hope over the bars, only fracturing my femur a little. At least one undead followed me as I see him out of the corner of my screen and I just take off. I sprint to the other door, open it, and flee. I have no bullets, no knife, and just a few cans of beans. I sprint into the darkness. I run and run and realize I hear other footsteps, then a groan. It’s a right proper chase scene! I run and run some more. The zeds don’t slow down. I don’t even know if I do, since it’s too dark to gauge anything. I’m running through bushes, roads, sand, and anything else that will hopefully but distance between my back and the hungry teeth of my pursuers. I slow down to turn around but make out clumsy running against the skybox. NOPE. I could just keep typing how much I run, but let me summarize by saying: A lot. At a certain point, I don’t care if I live but I had had enough of running through darkness. I try to flare, hoping I can move at the same time. I can’t, but I do get it thrown down the street with only a few bite marks on my shoulder. Houses! I sprint to them, my hungry friends only feet behind me, moaning the whole time. I count about 3 based on the moans, I think. I’m not sure if I have a stamina meter or what, but I have to lose them. I wheel around a gate right next to where my flare landed, and cut a corner around a large house short to try to trip them up. It works, but barely. They’re still in pursuit. I hope over a small picket fence then run a bit more, but I notice the footsteps behind me stopped. Ha! Lost them! Wait… no, they got over it somehow. What followed was a Benny Hill like sequence where we ran from gate to gate, with a slightly larger gap between us each time. After 3 times around, I decided to try to run out to the dock nearby and see what they do. Turned out to be a pretty good plan! I ran to the end, and they lingered at the beach, confused. This gave me enough time to chuck another flare on the dock and one into the forest. As I finished that up, I noticed they were adapting, and I quickly had 3 zombies breast-stroking through the ocean to the dock stairs next to me. Uh-oh. I sprinted off towards my new flair, filled with hubris and hope.  Surely they were lost. I slowed to walk to get my breath back and munched on some canned beans. Victory Beans. The celebration was premature though. Either those zombies were Olympic swimmers or I attracted more, I’ll never know, but the next thing I saw was arms flailing about me and my screen turning red. I was quite injured from my epic chase, so they dropped me quickly. Intestines all around, lads, you earned it.

Day Z is most assuredly exceptional. It’s got some engine issues, and I’m still not sure if the door bit is working as intended or a glitch or a placeholder until they work out barricades, but it’s worth your time. And with Amazon currently selling ARMA II and the Expansion needed to run the mod for just $15, there’s a good chance it’s worth your dollars too. I think I speak for everyone who’s played when I say we’re just waiting for the announcement that they’ve been picked up by Valve, or Paradox, or Tripwire or *shudder* EA to make a real game, and I hope that happens! Red Orchestra and Portal all started as small indie games/mods and went on to do great things, I hope Day Z follows that path. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some innards that are just begging to be ripped out.

Amazon.com’s ARMA sale Get it while it’s hot!

The Day-Z Homepage

Easy Installer Incredibly necessary, the install was a huge pain to figure out until I found that. Make sure you follow the instructions. Also you’ll have to patch your game if you get it from Amazon, at least I did.

[Screenshots Incoming, hopefully, now that I have the game linked to Steam.]

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The dicotomy of silliness

For my first post, I wanted to talk about something that’s bothered me for a long time in video games: Should they take themselves seriously?
I think this comes down to personal preferences, of course. The Call of Duty and Madden Dude-bro crowd may call anything with cell shaded graphics “For Kids”, and the most die hard “Just one more swap” puzzle game fan might turn up his nose at any game with a story because “Games are about having fun”. But really I think there is an important middle ground that serves the gamer best. Lets look at some examples, and see if the need to dial down the grimdark, or cut back on the slapstick:

  • Bulletstorm

    Not mentioned in this post: Boob size debate.

I wanted to lead with this game because it’s pretty much the poster child for over the top. Right after “Press Start”, your character is sitting in a chair, swigging a beer, and holding a gun to someone’s head. Pretty Tarantino, right? Then, just like in Samuel “Say what one more time” Jackson’s scene, there’s a  stressed out dude in a chair being interrogated by some men who seem to enjoy casual violence. Seems like a pretty tense scene, where you can’t decide between smirking at the Anti-hero’s attempts at witty dialogue or feeling bad for the man begging for his life in front of some clearly disturbed, gun toting individuals. This could be pretty heavy stuff. Then you kick him out of the airlock and your buddy starts talking about boners… Shortly after, there’s some sort of hardboiled revenge quest set up, and a few scenes where you and your friends try to launch a suicide attack on a ship, leaving them pretty screwed up. Next is a relatively srsbuisness flashback filled with story exposition. Then you’re dumped back to present day and given the tutorial explaining how shooting people in the nuts is worth extra points.

I think this game really suffers an identity crisis. It WANTS to be the over the top action shooter, but it also attempts to be a story based, “Cool tough guy shooter” in the same vein as Halo, but it doesn’t succeed at mixing those two very well. A great example of what they should have been aiming for is the Serious Sam series. The story is there, and serves as a framework, but never gets in the way of the games’ goals of being action packed and shooty. Bulletstorm ended up with this weird vibe where you were never quite sure where you would end up next. Kind of a turned upside-down version of the Only Sane Man trope, where the main characters seem to be the only batshit elements in what is a fairly serious world otherwise.

My Verdict: Pick a side, and focus, Bulletstorm.

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (All of ’em)

The CoD: MW series serves as an interesting contrast to Bulletstorm. It’s set in the real world. It’s modern, and based around modern issues we are meant to relate to. And for the most part, it takes itself pretty seriously. It tries to tell a story, and sometimes even mixes in REAL HUMAN DRAMA© occasionally. After all, this is the first game where you play a victim of a nuclear blast, slowly dying of burns and radiation. A real stark illustration of the horrors of war and all that jazz. Then you cut to the multiplayer where there are men wearing skull facepaint running around in full sprint, wielding two sawn-off shotguns and getting 10 knife kills in as many minutes while dodging bullets and mines. Then you go to the next game in the series and it explores the ideas of whether killing innocents is worth keeping your cover with the badguys in order to save even more lives. The good news about the Cawd: Muhwuh games is that they don’t do a whole lot of ping-ponging between ridicules and dramatic. They pretty clearly separate the two between single and multiplayer. Especially highlighted in the Treyarch Call of Duty games where you can dial the crazy up to 11 in co-op and kill Nazi Zombies with a partner.

My Verdict: You done good, kid. If you want to have both, at least separate them so you don’t have to deal with depressing, emotional scenes followed by zany dialogue and undead goose steppers.

  • Team Fortress 2

And finally, my favorite. To me, TF2 is the greatest example of goof done well. This is a game of Rawket Lawnchairs, bows and arrows, shotguns galore, and slapping people in the face with questionably conscious fish. The game confines almost never try to tell a story, although they do subtly set up a (awesomely exaggerated) world around our cast of characters. This is more chalked up to Valve’s excellent talent for exposition without cutscenes than the game’s inherent silliness though. While playing, you are almost always thinking of ways to dodge incoming explosives rather than the motivation behind why two armies of infinitely respawning clones in different colored clothes are fighting over a pit of gravel. The “Meet the” videos are also a stellar example of crafting depth into a game without letting it interfere with the core gameplay.  Now, I’ll admit the silliness level has ramped up considerably over time with TF2, but it’s something the devs have embraced wholeheartedly so it seems to work pretty well, I’d say. Mix in a heaping helping of biting Comedy and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a great game. And don’t forget:

My Verdict: You may have turned away some with your antics, but you can’t please everybody. And I think you’ve done a great job pleasing everyone else.

So if you’re noticing a trend, good on you! It seems craziness and fun tend to go hand in hand, and also holding hands in a weird 3-way handshake is Multiplayer.

Guess which one is Crazyness and which one is Fun.

It seems that Multiplayer just lends itself to story-lite gameplay, and everyone can appreciate a good “OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST SEE THAT” moment, which you rarely get in dour, story driven affairs.  I can’t really see the likes of Heavy Rain or LA Noir having a multiplayer side (Although maybe co-op, that’s another entry for another time) outside of something ambient like you see in Dark Souls or the PSN game Journey. Whereas most single player games benefit from a little bit of world design, details, a cohesive story.

Any commenters have examples to the contrary?

Sincerely,

@Vazzaroth

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